The Bethesda Circulator is a free bus shuttle serving downtown Bethesda. For years the service has operated using a fleet of old-timey fake trolleys, but as of this week the kitsch is out. The Circulator has officially taken the trolleys off the street and replaced them with new buses that look more like a modern tram, and bear a strong resemblance to D.C. Circulator buses.
The idea behind the old fake trolleys was that more people would use the route if its vehicles were visibly different from a normal bus. That’s generally true. Unfortunately, fake trolleys have a number of negative effects. Their wood panel seats are uncomfortable, their special parts are difficult and expensive to maintain, and, worst of all, they send the message that transit is a theme park ride rather than real modern transportation.
The new buses, on the other hand, accomplish the goal of looking special without any of those negative side effects. They’re comfortable, easy to use, and they look like they belong on the street rather than in Disney World. They’re an improvement in every way.
Now if we could just get Alexandria to ditch theirs, too.
Dan Malouff is an Arlington County transportation planner who blogs independently at BeyondDC.com. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.